Book Cover



Katherine Zlabek

6 x 9, 160 pp.
Pub Date: October, 2019

Subjects: Fiction

Series: The Journal Non/Fiction Prize

Imprint: Mad Creek

order Paperback $22.95 Sale price $18.36 with free US shipping ISBN: 978-0-8142-5546-9
Order PDF ebook$22.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-7719-5

“Katherine Zlabek is a writer with an honest style. Her prose is so clear that you can see the ache and hope shimmering at the bottom of these stories. This is a sad, lovely, and utterly convincing collection.” —Chris Bachelder

“In these lovely, compelling stories, the Midwest is a place both plain and fantastical. Seen through the dreamy, even hallucinatory, vision of Katherine Zlabek’s characters, traffic accidents and church fundraisers—the stuff of daily life—become magical, ominous, tragic. This is a writer with a singular, beautifully strange vision.”—Leah Stewart

“In Katherine Zlabek’s terrific debut, When, one finds elements of Iris Murdoch (the stories’ astringency and darkness and verve) and Tom Drury (their idiosyncratic wit, often remote rural settings, sense of the shambolic picaresque, and their loving attention to the foibles of Midwestern speech). But one finds much more, too: Zlabek is an original, and the ways she combines these elements with her own quirky, antic, delightful voice(s) and with her depiction of strong, tough, quirky women make this book a revelation. Bravo!” —Michael Griffith

“Each story in Katherine Zlabek’s collection, When, is a revelation of character and place. Many of the stories are set in rural Midwestern towns and intimately dramatize the experiences of female characters from childhood into adulthood: Two girls drag a dead pig into a cornfield; a young woman stands alone over a stove in the night and savors a bull’s heart that’s simmering in a pot. The stories often deal in histories, and move skillfully through time. No one is who they seem to be—in family, friendship, and love. The collection is filled with clear-eyed and often humorous observations about the masks we all wear, and the many ways we fool ourselves so that we might fit in. When is artistically risky, deeply felt, and beautifully written.” —Patrick O'Keeffe

A bull’s heart simmers in a crockpot, echoing the household’s tension in a retelling of Biblical Jacob’s trials. A priest observes his congregation’s descent into madness and wonders at his own role. An elderly woman imagines herself into her boomtown’s history and eventual abandonment at the height of the Gold Rush. Towns and people vanish, daughters return, women prepare escapes, and animals invade. In this collection of stories situated within the mythology of the Midwest, the past is always present, tangible and unrelenting, constantly asking these characters whether they will be a sacrifice or a martyr, daring them to give in without a fight. Here, transcendence is a tonic hard-earned by the battered soul.

The atmospheric stories in When illuminate the customs of rural America, a part of this country that’s been asked to risk the best of itself in order to survive, revealing with humor and weight fears about wealth, worth, and the dignity of home.

Katherine Zlabek’s stories and essays have appeared in Boulevard, Kenyon Review, and Ninth Letter, among other journals. Ricochet Editions published her chapbook, Let the Rivers Clap Their Hands, in 2015.



Hunting the Rut

Love Me, and the World Is Mine

If There Is Need of Blessings

So Very Nice



Let the Rivers Clap Their Hands


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